Is determinism logically unfalsifiable?

#1
I've been lightly reading in to free will v. determinism lately, particularly discussions about how far genetic/epigenetic and body chemistry would interact to decide on human behavior. One niggle I've always had with the deterministic (especially biological deterministic) argument is that it seems unfalsifiable. One such page I came across offers a succinct aggregate of the deterministic argument[fn:1]:

Libet action potentials "prove" that a decision occurs 0.3 seconds before consciously aware

One niggle I have with this infamous study is that there are other possible ways a person can do something before becoming "aware" of it. If the brain is such an apt inventor of retroactive stories[fn:2], would this not mean that the brain could invent the time delay as well? Alternatively, the brain could simply require the extra milliseconds to formulate the words necessary to "think" about what happened. I hypothesize this based on a number of learning techniques (such as speed reading, or other human languages) that suggest learning meanings directly instead of reading words phonetically and trying to seek meaning from them there. This tells me that some amount of cycles are spent in a processing loop somewhere else, much like a regular computer has several "cache levels" with differing access speeds. If free will exists, nothing says that it would comprise the totality of the brain; it could very well be an "oracle machine" stuck in to wetware, which would have delays nonetheless. Since willpower might even be a limited resource[fn:3] (still a topic of research) it would even make sense for a lot of "co-processors" to be built-in to handle important tasks that are sent up for conscious review. This is all beside the point, though.

No "false" option

Determinists will state that everything happens because A ⇒ B ⇒ C because of classical physics. Yet when faced with evidence that some physics exists wherein the entire state cannot actually be known all at once, they will then claim that this proof-negative that they are still "right"[fn:4]. I know that I have written about this a little in the past, yet I still find it bothersome. There seems to be an imperative that determinism *must* be true, to the degree that any evidence that violates its assertions are interpreted in a rather cognitively dissonant fashion that it is still true despite possible evidence to the contrary. Essentially, I read it as this:

determinist mind ⇒ determinist physics

A perfectly valid, falsifiable theory. Yet quantum physics introduces uncertainty, which means we cannot formally know that the universe is 100% determinist. Such that

quantum uncertainty ⇒ ¬determinist physics = ¬determinist mind

What I feel happens at this point is the determinist claims "randomness can't be a component of free will, therefore I win" which is akin to saying "Heads you lose, tails I win."

They are then saying:

determinist mind ⇒ determinist physics ∨ uncertain physics

Since they have just co-opted a potential proof that physics is not wholly deterministic, the theory is basically saying:

determinist mind ⇒ ⊤

And thus, not falsifiable; meaning unscientific. Free-will may be equally unconscionable for some, yet I find determinism hard to believe until Determinists are able to conceive of some way their theory can be falsified.

Footnotes

[fn:1] http://www.humantruth.info/free_will.html

[fn:2] "The conscious part of us, the part we think makes 'choices', is an interpreter which tries to explain our own actions just as it watches and tries to explain other peoples' actions too."

[fn:3] https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/willpower-limited-resource.pdf

[fn:4] "If such randomness of causes sometimes effects whether or not a neurone fires then it is still not our choice whether it fires or not. On a larger scale it means that these important possibility-trees are not willed into existence. If these facts of quantum randomness and chaos theory are sound, it merely provides another element of non-choice, another argument for the lack of free will."
 
#2
"Determinism" in the sense that "for every event, including human action, there exist conditions that could cause no other event" already looks to be falsified. It isn't so much that Determinism isn't falsifiable. It's that people have a hard time letting go of ideas which seems intuitively palatable - realism and free will - and so continue to look for ways in which those two things could still be true.

If "unfalsifiable" means "people tend to hold on to intuitively palatable beliefs in the face of conflicting evidence", then Determinism is hardly alone in that regard. :)

Linda
 
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